Mother’s Day Fundraising

Mother’s Day is next Sunday – last year we did some fundraising for Yorkshire Cancer research. This year we are continuing our fundraising for Martin House Children’s Hospice. Mum worked there for many years before later becoming a trustee. We are trying to raise £5000 to restore the lighting in the corridor of the children’s bedrooms which will not only brighten it up for them, and highlight the incredible artwork on the walls, but also reflects Mum’s light and bright personality.

This Mother’s Day we’re asking you to donate the cost of a card in memory of all the Mums who can’t share Mother’s Day with us this year.

To donate, please text ‘LOVM53’ followed by your donation amount to 70070 or visit our Just Giving page.

 

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Happy Christmas

xmasHappy Christmas to you all with so much love from me and my blog.

I hope that you all have a lovely day wherever you are – whether it be alone or with family and friends, and whether you celebrate Christmas or not. I hope that you can be as happy as little me in this picture, and that if you’re not feeling that way , then your day is peaceful at the very least.

Christmas can be a tricky time when coping with loss, it can highlight the fact that someone is missing, I know I miss Mum a lot, so be kind to yourselves if you can.

I’ve donated to our Martin House fund in Mum’s memory this year because I can’t exactly get her a present. You’re more than welcome to do the same which you can do here.

If you’re feeling lonely, Sarah Millican is running her #joinin hashtag on Twitter again this year. The Samaritans line is always open, Blurt’s peer support group is there, and Beat have kept their helpline open again this year if you need someone to talk to.

Charities and Campaigns You Could Consider This Christmas

This blog post is a little late, but life has been getting on top of my lately and I’m a bit behind with everything! Christmas is a time when lots of people consider giving to charity, which is absolutely wonderful. I thought I’d do a little post with a few suggestions of places you could donate to.

Presents for the elderly in hospital
I know that York Hospital are currently accepting present donations for the 15433766_1087563644689637_4144773404954213601_nelderly who are in hospital over the Christmas period (here is the press article). I imagine that other hospitals are doing similar (if you don’t live in York). We bought a few boxes of chocolates and gift sets the other night and we’re going to drop them off later this week. It’s not something that costs very much but it can make the world of difference to someone in hospital over Christmas. (Update: gift collection at York Hospital has been halted due to an overwhelming response, but I imagine there are many other places who would appreciate gift donations!).

Martin House
We are still currently collecting for Martin House, to replace the lights in the corridor of the children’s bedrooms in memory of Mum. If you’d like to donate to this fund, you can do so here.

Yorkshire Cancer Research
We are leading the YCR collection this Christmas. They’re encouraging people to share treasured memories and donate in memory of a loved one. You can see more on their campaign here and here. I’ve also included the letter I wrote to lead this campaign below.

Whatever you’re doing this Christmas, I hope you all have a peaceful time with your family and friends, and that it is as stress-free as possible for you all. Xxx

The YCR letter:
I used to love Christmas. Mum would start the preparations in October half term with baking the cake. It would fill the house with wonderful smells, marking the transition from summer to winter. The cake baking would closely be followed by weekends spent cooking mincemeat, baking and freezing batches of mince pies and the odd Christmassy pudding.

We used to alternate our Christmases – one at home, one with Mum’s family. Years at Mum’s family’s house were a little quieter, we would often pop in on other relations over the festive period, but Christmas day itself would just be me, my brothers, my parents, my Grandad, Aunt and Uncle. Years at home were a little more chaotic – Mum was usually ‘on call’ (she was a consultant in palliative medicine, or end of life care to you and me), so she would often be on the phone to hospitals or hospices and would occasionally have to pop out. The house would always be full, often reaching 20 people by Christmas day – rarely would there have been under ten people in the house over the whole festive period.

The last time we had that many people in the house was for Mum’s funeral.

Mum was diagnosed with breast cancer in August 2012. She found it early, had a lumpectomy followed by preventative chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Spring 2013, she was given the ‘all clear’ and started on Tamoxifen, a drug developed by Yorkshire Cancer Research, which helped to keep her in remission. Unfortunately, Mum’s cancer came back. In February 2014, she was diagnosed with terminal cancer; she died in October 2015 aged 53.

Mum asked for money given at her funeral to go to Yorkshire Cancer Research. I knew that Mother’s Day this year was going to be difficult, so I knew that I needed to do something positive. That’s when I set up ‘Memories about Mums’ – a way of fundraising for YCR, but also a space for those of us who are motherless to share our memories and celebrate our Mum’s lives.

Living without Mum is hard; I miss her every day. I miss texting her, seeing her dance around the kitchen whilst cooking or baking, and spinning on the spinny chair in her office – distracting her from whatever work she was trying to do. Mum has helped make me the person I am today. She was always busy, always up to something, often helping other people, and that’s something that I will always look up to.

The festive period doesn’t make that grief any easier. Nobody teaches you how to cope with grief – there’s no guidebook or manual to get you through it. One of the things that helps me, though, is to direct that grief into something positive, whether it be writing, fundraising or helping others. The blogs I write won’t bring Mum back but might help someone else in the same position, and any money I raise won’t bring Mum back, but will fund vital research which could prevent others in Yorkshire from also having to have Christmases without their Mum.

It would be lovely, if this Christmas, we could extend ‘Memories about Mums’, and share memories of all the loved ones who won’t be with us this Christmas, whether that be through a donation in their memory, or a donation of the amount you would have spent on a Christmas present for them.

Together, we can help to tackle cancer in Yorkshire.

Dear Mum, It’s Been A Year Since You Died.

Dear Mum,

It’s been a year since you died. 525600 minutes if ‘Rent’ is to be believed. ‘525000 moments so dear’ (quite what happened to the other 600 moments is anyone’s guess).

It’s gone fast in many ways, though part of that could be because I lost a number of months to depression, sadness, anxiety, or whateverelse you want to call it.

Time is a funny old thing. No matter what is happening, it continues. It can feel fast or slow, but ultimately, a second is a second, a minute is sixty seconds, an hour is sixty minutes. Time really does go on.

The world is a little darker without you in it. A little duller. Your laugh no longer bounces off the walls of the house. Your arms no longer gather me into a hug when I walk through the door. Your smile doesn’t greet me as I come up the drive. I’m remembering things with a positive slant. Of course it wasn’t always like that, especially when you were working late, or once you became ill, but who wants to remember the bad stuff? I still can’t believe I’ll never take another photo with you.

The depression is nothing new, you know that. Often, when you would wake me up on a morning, I would be crying – crying in my sleep, literally waking up on the wrong side of bed, having a bad day before I’d even moved a muscle. You would see me crying and give me a hug. You would get my clothes ready for me and remind me how to get dressed. You would feed me chocolate on an evening (because it could fix anything). You would only ever be a text away, even when you were ill. You would let me come into your bed in the middle of the night when the world felt dark and the nights felt never-ending. You would ask what was wrong but not expect an answer. Your calm, quiet understanding and love could carry me through the hardest of days and the toughest of nights.

I need a hug, Mum. Things were getting easier for a while but at the moment they are getting hard again and often getting from my bed to the kitchen feels like wading through treacle. It can be hard to move. Everything aches and I don’t know why. Maybe my body is missing you. I have to set my alarm earlier in the morning to allow for the dazed confusion when I can’t function or remember anything much at all when I wake up. Sometimes life can feel all over the place and I need a ‘Mum hug’ to ground me. A Mum hug to set everything straight. A Mum hug to make the world feel safe again.

I keep panicking that people are dying. You were the healthy one, the fit one. You ate well, had a normal BMI, exercised, never smoked, didn’t drink much… the perfect candidate for a long and healthy life. I look at those I care about now and see walking diagnoses. I panic when I get a text from Dad or one of the boys. I’m waiting to hear that someone else is ill or someone else has died. It’s only a matter of time.

A lot can change in a year, it seems. I’ve moved house twice, and well and truly moved out of the house I grew up in. I’ve started a new job – well, two new jobs, but one was short-lived. I think you’d like my boss and colleagues; they’re on your wavelength. Both J and I have passed our driving tests (finally!). J has started at a new uni on a new course, and from the significant drop in the number of texts I receive on a daily basis, I can only assume he’s enjoying it (or he’s got fed up of my lack of replies…). E has started sixth form and seems to be loving it. He’s met new people and worked out that every other week his frees align with his friend’s and they can all go round to someone’s house and eat pie. He’s found someone at school who went to his nursery – we looked for his nursery class photo but couldn’t find it. You would know where it was. Dad has started learning to swim front crawl, he’s joined the local AmDram, he’s continuing to use his share in an airplane fly all over the place (though never as often as he’d like), and he’s just about keeping on top of the selling FairTrade stuff at church. Pops has had a pacemaker fitted which brought a new lease of life – he’s back to emailing us little poems and procrastinating raking up the leaves in his garden. We’ve all ‘moved on’ in our own little ways – maybe ‘moving on’ is the wrong choice of words, but we’re all sort of continuing to live.

Someone asked me the other day if I ever talk to you. I don’t. What is there to say? It’d be a pretty one-sided conversation. I often talk about you as if you were still alive, though. It catches people off guard, sometimes. Most people have stopped asking now. Death is just a part of life, but not a part that people like talking about – as a palliative medicine doctor, you always said that people should talk about death more, and now I understand why. I don’t think that death is something which should be feared. I was talking about this with E the other day, we both decided that if we were held at gunpoint we would rather die than be seriously injured. Not that people who have had serious injuries can’t lead fulfilling lives, it’s just somehow more scary to contemplate that than it is to contemplate death.

I miss you. Many people say ‘time heals’, but time only seems to make it harder. It’s more time without you, more times where I’ve missed your advice, more time without a hug from you, more times that I’ve not been able to update you on my life, more times when you’ve not been on the end of the phone. It often feels like a gaping hole – I never knew that absence could hurt so much. The pain can be crippling.

Time has taught me how lucky I was to have you and quite how amazing you were. I hear stories from your friends, colleagues and classmates. I find your work online. Lessons you taught me come back to me when I’m going about my day. I take your values to work with me every day. I chat to people who never knew you, I describe my relationship to you (the ups and the downs, because it certainly wasn’t all plain sailing), and they remind me how lucky I was to have had a Mum as amazing as you.

I know you wouldn’t want us to spend time missing you. You would want us to make the most of every day. To take every opportunity and try our best in all that we do. You would want us to value the time we spend with each other, enjoy our jobs, and ensure that we play as hard as we work. You did all these things with such apparent ease. I have no idea how you kept everything going, I struggle with a fraction of what you did, but you did it. You worked hard, played hard, loved hard. An incredible wife, Mum, daughter, colleague, doctor, auntie, congregation member, band member and friend, right to the end.

I want to say that I’m sorry for not being more, doing more and achieving more. But I know you would tell me that my best was good enough and I need to be kind to myself. I want to say I’m sorry for not always being kind to myself – I’m not sure what your answer would be to that (probably a hug).

I’ll end this here. It’s very long and nobody wants to read all that. Plus, you can’t exactly read it so I’m not sure why I’m writing it. Maybe in a vague attempt to help someone else. Perhaps an effort to make sense of some of the crap filling up my head. I don’t really know.

I miss you Mum. Lots of love. Xxx


We’re currently fundraising in memory of Mum, one year on.
Here is where you can donate to Mum’s ‘one year on’fundraising page online.
If you’d like to donate via your phone, please text ‘FOYO53’ followed by £1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10 to 70070.

How Do You Celebrate A Dead Person’s Birthday?

It was Mum’s birthday over the weekend. I asked my flatmate how you celebrate a dead person’s birthday. Perhaps with a caterpillar cake and a solitary candle, alone in a room somewhere. She said she’d join me on the cake.

It’s odd how arbitrary dates become meaningful when somebody dies. So many days have passed by since Mum died, most without a second thought, but the 23rd of each month, the monthly anniversary of her death, always sticks in my mind.

Mum was first diagnosed with breast cancer just before her 50th birthday, and it really wasn’t a ‘thing’. I was talking to someone the other day about how it literally wasn’t a big deal when Mum was first diagnosed. None of us thought it would ever come back. None of us were ever particularly worried about it. Mum had caught it early; she had a lumpectomy, and then chemo and radiotherapy. But we were told the chemo and radio were preventative not cureative. Mum would take a week off work for each round of chemo, and for radio she just nipped down while she was at work. Cancer round one flew past us and we barely blinked. It was nice to have Mum home a bit more, and she taught me how to knit, but beyond that life carried on as normal.

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That’s why, when the terminal diagnosis appeared, it was all a bit of a shock (at least to us, I think Mum had known there was something not quite right for a few months).

It was four years ago now that Mum was first diagnosed. It’s both amazing and horrible how much life has changed in that period of time. Four years ago I had never seen Mum with no hair, I’d never seen her in a wheelchair, fed her water through a sponge, or wiped her face for her when she couldn’t reach. I’d never made a tiny pizza cut into tiny pieces, made scrambled eggs, or cried into Mum’s unresponsive body. Dad had never sent Mum flying upon encountering a rabbit hole whilst driving her wheelchair, broken such horrible news to our family and friends, or driven to and from the hospital upwards of five times a day.

Even in the almost-year since Mum died, so much has happened. My brother got into Oxford, my other brother picked up a handful of GCSEs, and I got a new job. My granddad has been reinvigorated upon the installation of a pacemaker, my Dad’s flown his plane to new places, and my aunt and uncle have visited new countries.

24th September, Mum’s 54th birthday (or do you stop counting when someone dies?) passed, just as every other day has. People often say that they hope their loved ones are celebrating wherever they are but I’m not sure I believe in heaven, or an afterlife. I’m not sure I believe that Mum is alive in another world, space or time. I think she’s probably just dead. But her spirit and everything she’s taught us will live on in us.

One thing we have decided to do (which is perhaps a little cliché, but we’re rolling with it) is to raise money for charity. The local children’s hospice needs £5000 to install new lighting along the corridor by the children’s bedrooms, which will not only make it nicer for the children, but will also light up the artwork on the walls. Mum worked there for many years, before later becoming a trustee, and myself and my brothers have fond memories of spending time there while she was working. The hospice holds the values, vision, and beliefs that Mum held. It’s an ambitious target, but we’re hoping to raise this money through donations and fundraising. If anyone would like to make a donation in Mum’s memory, you can do so here, or by texting ‘FOYO53’ followed by £1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10 to 70070.

Featured: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/naomibarrow/celebrating-birthday_b_12199738.html

Remembering Mum, One year On

Tomorrow, September 24th 2016 marks what would have been Mum’s 54th birthday. October 23rd 2016 will mark one year since Mum died.

We’ve chosen to spend the next month doing what we can to raise money for Martin House Chlidren’s Hospice. Mum worked there for many years, before later becoming a trustee. They share all of Mum’s values, and do some absolutely brilliant work; providing care and respite for families facing harder times than most of us can ever imagine.

Martin House need around £5000 to install  new lighting in the corridor that links the children’s bedrooms which as well improving the general light levels will also enable the superb artwork that decorates the walls and ceilings to be better displayed. We feel that as well as being a very worthy course – it reflects the light that Mum brought to all of our lives.

We’d love it if you could join us on this (ambitious!) mission to raise this money over the next month, and possibly beyond. We don’t mind how people get involved – dontating directly, holding a coffee morning at work, having a swear box in the office… no donation or fundraising effort is too small (and if you need ideas or want to run it by us, feel free to message me!).

Thank you in advance for any help/donations you can give to this cause.

Here is where you can donate online.

If you’d like to donate via your phone, please text ‘FOYO53’ followed by £1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10 to 70070.